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URI Blows 10 Point Lead, Loses 57-54 to St. Joe’s

Thursday, February 20, 2014


KINGSTON, RI-- In lieu of a traditional, textbook lede, sometimes it’s better to let one of the main subjects of the story tell it like it is.

“Just another excruciating loss,” was URI Head Coach Dan Hurley’s blunt (but effective) summary.

URI led by 10 points in the 2nd half Wednesday night at the Ryan Center, but a 12-2 St. Joe’s run to tie the game with 10 minutes to play signaled another fight to the finish for the young Rams.

And, like so many times this season, be it Providence, St. Louis, UMass, or anyone else- URI failed to close out an upset at home and instead were left searching for moral victories and a glass slipper that fits.

“If there’s anything I’m disappointed in, it’s probably shot selection and ball security to start the second half,” Hurley said. URI shot 38% from the floor and 21% from 3 point range for the game, and their shooting struggles overshadowed a largely impressive performance.

Rhody won the rebounding battle 35-30 and had 14 assists compared to just 11 for St. Joe’s. The Rams held Hawks’ leading scorer Langston Galloway to 6 points on 2-12 shooting, and scored 11 bench points to just 7 for SJU.

It didn’t matter. When the chips were on the table and the clock was winding down, the Hawks stepped up their game. Ronald Roberts scored 18 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead SJU, and freshman sensation DeAndre Bembry scored 12 points on 5-6 shooting for the Hawks.

The real hero on Wednesday night, however, was St. Joe’s senior Halil Kanecevic. Kanacevic finished with 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 4 assists, but it was his clutch play late in the game that carried the Hawks to victory.

After picking up his 4th foul with over 10 minutes to go, Kanecevic sat for 8 minutes of basketball time. When he returned to the game, he showed no signs of getting cold on the bench, getting the ball in the low post and isolating against URI freshman Hassan Martin.

Martin is easily URI’s best post defender, but Kanecevic has the guile of a player who has been through it all at St. Joe’s. All game long Kanecevic used an inside move to his left hand on the low block, until he caught Martin cheating on that last isolation and executed a quick drop step to his right side for an easy layup.

St. Joe's big man Halil Kanecevic draws Hassan Martin away from the hoop and prepares his move in a key moment.

He wasn’t done there. With St. Joe’s leading by 1 point and just over a minute to play, the Hawks ran a play that resulted in aforced shot with a long rebound. Kanecevic was there for the key offensive board with one minute to go, and he pulled the ball outside and called the last spread offensive play for himself.

Not many teams can run a spread, high screen offense for their center, but Kanecevic has point gard skills to go along with his 6’8”, 255 pound frame.

Galloway came out to set a makeshift screen, and Kanecevic put the ball on the floor and drove hard to his left, past a confused Martin and threw the middle of the Rhody defense for an easy layup.

E.C. Matthews’ 3 pointer at the end was off-line, and that was it.

For St. Joe’s, the win moves them to 8-3 in the Atlantic 10 and 18-7 overall. URI falls to 11-16 overall and 2-10 in conference play. It’s also URI’s 6th consecutive loss.

Matthews led the charge for URI with 17 points, and Gilvydas Biruta added 10 points in a losing effort. After carrying an 8 point lead into halftime, URI scored just 21 points in the 2nd half Wednesday.

URI next plays Saturday afternoon at St. Bonaventure. The Rams return home the following Saturday, March 1st, and take on Richmond at 2 p.m.




--Hurley had high praise for Kanecevic after the game and described the “point-forward” as having an NBA skill set.

--Injured URI point guard Biggie Minnis (hip) was dressed for pregame warmups and took part in a light shootaround. He did not dress for the game, but it’s encouraging to see him able to do light basketball activity.

Hurley said he hoped to “get him through a couple of practices” and re-evaluate Minnis this weekend. Hurley also stressed the need for another body given URI’s depleted rotation.

--Wednesday night was URI’s 8th Annual “Pink Out” for Breast Cancer Awareness.  Fans, cheerleaders, and coaches were all decked out in pink for a good cause.


Follow Jack on Twitter @RealJackAndrade


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